Taylor Hawkins’ 8 Best Drumming Moments

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Taylor Hawkins’ 8 Best Drumming Moments

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Taylor Hawkins was a drummer’s drummer. As a kid in middle school just learning how to play, I would watch footage of Hawkins pounding the drums on YouTube. His idiosyncratic performances, which merged captivating power with stylistic finesse, were visual just as much as they were aural. His long, blond hair would fly around him as his sticks blurred into an almost imperceptible haze. When I received Hawkins’ signature sticks as a gift during my adolescence, I used them until they were virtually nothing but shreds of wood. I’d like to think that it was the proper way to use Hawkins’ sticks, playing with such verve until there was nothing left of them. 

Foo Fighters are renowned for their stamina-testing live shows, and Hawkins was the impetus of that. He served as the perfect backbone for a juggernaut rock band. Night after night, he would dedicate all that he had. He filled every arena and festival field with his colossal sound. Hawkins was a singular force in his band, and, despite the fact that former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl was the frontman, Hawkins maintained a spotlight of his own. That’s why highlighting some of his best moments in drumming is so integral to understanding exactly why Hawkins was a bona fide drummer’s drummer.

"Best Of You" (2005)

The lead single from Foo Fighters’ double album In Your Honor is among their most famous. It opens with one of Grohl’s most indelible lyrics (“I’ve got another confession to make”), just him and his guitar. But it’s when the song crescendos into a swirl of pure catharsis that it unveils its true star: Hawkins. Fueled by his propulsive fills, “Best Of You” is an adrenaline rush of an anthem. Hawkins saves his most show-stopping work for the outro, where he unleashes rapid-fire triplets and sixteenth-notes before it ultimately comes to a close.

"Rope" (2011)

In Back And Forth, the documentary that chronicles Foo Fighters’ history up until their latest record at the time, Wasting Light, Hawkins supplies one of the most memorable lines. During the film’s credits sequences, Hawkins says that people always ask him what it’s like to be a rock star, to which he pithily retorts: “I’m not a rock star. I’m a musician.” One of the best showcases of his musicianship is the Wasting Light cut “Rope.” Hawkins pays an unabashed homage to the late Neil Peart’s drumming on Rush’s “YYZ” with his pattern in the chorus, and those drum breaks in the bridge display Hawkins’ prowess as a musician.

"Breakout" (1999)

On There Is Nothing Left To Lose, Hawkins took somewhat of a backseat to allow Grohl’s guitar-work take center stage. There’s the muted bossa nova of opener “Stacked Actors” and the midtempo ‘60s rock of “Ain’t It The Life.” Early on in the album, though, there’s “Breakout,” one of the record’s singles in which Hawkins refuses to stay in his lane, and it’s all the better for it. He spends plenty of time switching up the beat, demonstrating his multifaceted ways to approach a song. In the chorus, he goes from thrashing punk with open hi-hats to a steady rhythm on the ride cymbal, only to shift to sixteenth-note closed hi-hats later on. It’s one of the best songs on the album for Hawkins’ performance alone.

"Times Like These" (2002)

Following There Is Nothing Left To Lose, the Foos released One By One, their back-to-basics rock album with ubiquitous hits such as “All My Life” and, of course, “Times Like These,” two of their most popular songs. Although “Times Like These” is an omnipresent radio staple, its verses adhere to an unconventional, odd time signature of 7/4. Hawkins, meanwhile, holds down the fort, keeping time to ensure that his bandmates stay on track with him. Even in unorthodox time signatures, “Times Like These” proves that Hawkins never lost sight of his ultimate goal: serving the song with flair.

"My Hero (Live On Letterman)" (2011)

When Foo Fighters made their 2011 appearance for Live On Letterman, each member donned an opulent black suit. That is, except for one guy, and I bet you can imagine who. For their performance of “My Hero” from their seminal sophomore effort The Colour And The Shape, Hawkins is simply wearing a white T-shirt, and it’s easy to understand why. Grohl played drums on the studio version of “My Hero,” but Hawkins gives the song a new life with his sheer vigor, bashing the toms and getting as much sound out of them as humanly possible. He can’t wear a stiff suit for this. He’s got to get around the kit.

"The Pretender" (2006)

The opening track from Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace has become a de facto Foo Fighters essential and an all-but-guaranteed live cut. It starts on a quiet note, but Hawkins’ quarter-note snare whacks usher it into pure rock territory. Hawkins employs a surefire punk ethos here; on “The Pretender,” he’s the perfect amalgam of speed and power, and it’s that mixture that makes for some of Foo Fighters’ best songs. There’s also the bridge, where Hawkins slowly adds element upon element (a floor tom there, a closed hi-hat here) until one last chorus comes back in full-throttle.

"Bridge Burning" (2011)

Wasting Light was an unequivocal late-career gem, and “Bridge Burning” was a large reason why. Part of what makes the song such a standout is Hawkins’ driving snare in the intro. Toward the denouement of the Back And Forth film, the band plays “Bridge Burning” in a cramped club, and that’s where Hawkins’ performance on this song truly shines. One can only imagine what Hawkins’ playing sounded like in such a small setting, but I’m certain it resounded with the same robustness that it did in a large, open field.

Hyde Park Drum Solo (2006)

Even throughout Foo Fighters’ expansive catalog, Hawkins is using only a small percentage of his full power. That much is apparent when you watch his drum solo during a Foos show at Hyde Park. Hawkins fires off on all cylinders here, making as much use out of his drum kit as he possibly can. There are John-Bonham–indebted triplets and toms galore, and it all leads up to “My Hero,” at the start of which you can hear Grohl yell out to the crowd, “Taylor Hawkins on the drums right there!”

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